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Mike Q.
Democrat IL 5

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  • Rededicating Ourselves to Our Nation’s Unfinished Work

    by Representative Mike Quigley

    Posted on 2015-02-11

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    QUIGLEY. Mr. Speaker, 7 score and 12 years ago, another gentleman from Illinois went to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to dedicate the 4- month-old, still unfinished Union cemetery at the site of one of the bloodiest battles in American history. There he would give one of our Nation's defining speeches. Amazingly, President Lincoln's address was not even the main event of that day. Edward Everett, the former president of Harvard, was the event's main speaker, spending 2 hours lecturing about ancient Greece and how that society honored their fallen soldiers.



    Everett later wrote: I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in 2 hours as President Lincoln did in 2 minutes.

    In the 2\1/2\ minutes Lincoln spoke, he did more than honor our fallen soldiers. In 272 eloquent words, he reminded us that we live in a nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. He asked whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.

    In his address, the President also issued a challenge to his contemporaries and to generations of Americans thereafter, saying: It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

    He concluded: Our Nation shall have a new birth of freedom and that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from this Earth.

    In his address, I believe, President Lincoln was asking the question: What do we as Americans mean when we say all of us ``are created equal''? {time} 1015 In the over 150 years since the Gettysburg Address, we have had our struggles, but we have also had our successes.

    We have suffered the Supreme Court's decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, but we also experienced the redemption of Brown v. Board of Education. We allowed the women of this Nation to remain disenfranchised for more than a century, but we also passed the 19th Amendment, which affirmed women's right to vote.

    We lived through the travesties of Jim Crow, but we also celebrated the passage of the Civil Rights Act. We watched Truman's executive action desegregate our military. We passed Don't Ask, Don't Tell--and repealed it--and DOMA, but we also have witnessed the legalization of same-sex marriage in 37 States and the District of Columbia.

    All of these examples serve as reminders of the difficulties in ensuring equality for all, but they also demonstrate a nation that has responded to challenge and has been reborn. Each time, we have come a little closer to living up to the ideal that all of us are created equal.

    To paraphrase Dr. King, the moral arc of our Nation may be long, but as history shows us, it bends towards justice, equality, and freedom.

    [[Page H923]] In times of dissonance, inequality, and injustice, great leaders like Lincoln have reminded us of our Nation's true purpose: equality.

    On Lincoln's birthday, let's rededicate ourselves to our Nation's unfinished work. Let's ensure that women get equal pay for equal work. Let's recognize all love as equal and extend marriage rights to all of our citizens once and for all. Let's strengthen the Voting Rights Act to guarantee that no one is disenfranchised and all Americans have access to this fundamental right.

    Let's finish the work the Senate started and pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Let's pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act so that no American can be fired simply because of who they love or who they are. Let's allow our neighbors and friends who put in a full day's work, whether in the mailroom or the boardroom, to provide their families with a living wage.

    Lincoln modestly believed that ``no one would long remember'' his address that day at Gettysburg, but we do remember and strive to honor all those who have sacrificed and struggled--and continue to struggle-- for equality because we believe, as Dr. King spoke of on the steps of Lincoln's own sacred memorial, ``that one day this Nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'' ____________________

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